Saturday, April 30, 2011

Vanity publishing

Digital publishing is changing the industry in more ways than you might realise at first. It's not just about the economics of publishing, it's about the whole nature of what publishing is.

The other day I was reading Roz Morris's blog, Nail Your Novel. (If you're a writer, or an aspiring writer, then you really should have this on your feed. It's full of good stuff.) She was talking about self-publishing, and made this comment:

Vanity publishing is not the same as self-publishing. With vanity publishing you pay – usually a lot of money – for someone to print thousands of shoddy copies of your book and then you discover they’re not going to sell or distribute them for you. It’s usually verging on a scam. With self-publishing no money changes hands until a copy is sold (of course you may spend money on covers, editing etc, but that doesn’t usually have anything to do with the self-publishing company).

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) recently sold a novel to a Very Big Publisher (who shall also remain nameless). I was a little puzzled why he was so happy about it. I pointed out that he actually owns a digital publishing company, so he could have self-published. And, by his own admission, he'd probably make more money from self-publishing. That's not blind optimism, by the way. He's got several successful self-published books to his credit already, and can make a pretty fair assumption how much he'd sell if he did another.

His response was a little surprising. "It's vanity publishing, I suppose," he said. "I've got plenty of my own books on my shelf already, but it'll be nice to have one with that logo on the spine."

How's that for a total reversal? Self-publishing is where he makes money, and going to one of the biggest names in the book publishing industry is just a vanity project.


James H. Byrd said...

I've noticed the same attitude in other authors who are still afraid to take the leap in self publishing. They want the "credibility" and "vetting" they get with a big publisher, and they take it so very hard when publishers reject them.

It IS getting to the point where getting a big publishing deal is really a matter of ego. There's certainly not a financial advantage in going that direction any more.

Roz Morris aka @Roz_Morris . Blog: Nail Your Novel said...

Matt, touche (and thanks for the mention)! I was reading a blog last week written by agent Rachelle Gardner and she asked what kind of posts people were interested in reading. So many commenters replied that they didn't want to read any more about self-publishing because they wanted to 'get published properly'.

But I've never heard anyone put it in those terms! We really have come full circle.

Dave Morris said...

I did self-publish recently, in both app form and POD trade paperback, but when another publisher (established, if small) offered to take on the UK licence I discontinued the POD edition in Britain and went for it. The revenue per copy is not a lot different, so why? Partly it was because their print quality is way higher than I could hope for from digital POD. So that's definitely the vanity aspect. But there is also a credibility factor which seems to be a deciding factor for most readers. The self-published trade paperbacks have been on sale for a couple of months, but it's the editions by "a proper publisher" that are suddenly stirring up a lot of interest.

Also, bookshops and print reviewers alike are sniffy about self-published work but are at least willing to give serious attention to books from even a small regular publisher. That's logical enough, as the regular publisher had to pick that book from the hundreds of others they might have published. Hard as it is as an author to receive rejection letters, with self-publishing it's even harder to send them :)

Matt Kelland said...

There are certainly advantages to third party publishing over self-publishing, there's no denying it. And my friend is in the luxurious position of already being successful, with a loyal personal following, so he's not in the same position as someone wanting to break into the business.

Here's a great post that explodes some of the myths about both third party publishing and self-publishing.

Jacqvern said...

Well, did it occur to your friend that the traditional publishing offer came after he was already successful? Just saying.

I'm not supporting or rejecting any of the publishing ways. The right one is the way that will get the book published and sold, either traditional, indie or combination of both.

However, mentality is a very difficult thing to change and it takes many years.

And the debate about traditional vs. indie has already gone too far. :)

Thank you for the post :)

Matt Kelland said...

"did it occur to your friend that the traditional publishing offer came after he was already successful?"

Absolutely, yes. He's been selling books for well over a decade, but just decided it would be nice to have one from a big publisher, even though he would make less money from it. Hence why I found this reversal interesting - vanity publishing as something to indulge in after becoming successful, not as a way to break into becoming an author.

J.R. LeMar said...

I've signed up to Amazon's createspace, getting ready to format my debut novel THE CYBERSTALKER right now.